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"Event Horizon" Blu-ray Review

Since seeing it when it came out in 1997, but not since, I've remembered Event Horizon as a cheesy sci-fi horror flick with really excellent production design. Watching it again, not much has changed, though it did make me wonder why a giant spaceship in 2040 looks like a steampunk bondage dungeon with most of the technological workings being made of iron.

The titular ship disappeared without a trace and was the largest disaster in spacefaring history. Seven years later, in 2047, it has reappeared in low orbit over Neptune and a ship under the command of Laurence Fishburne has been dispatched to investigate, bringing along Sam Neill, the inventor of the gravity drive that powered the Event Horizon. When they arrive, spooky things start to happen. Hijinks ensue.

The production design still looks terrific with the use of elaborate practical sets. It has the gritty tactile appearance that made the Nostromo in Alien convincing, though there are more sharp edges than you'd think a safety-first spaceship should have. The smokey cinematography by the late Adrian Biddle (whose first film was Aliens) almost makes hack director (and Milla Jovovich's baby daddy) Paul W.S. Anderson's film into a film of minor significance, but the thin script - is the ship itself evil or just converting the crew's inner demons into physical reality, a la the planet in Solaris - and reliance on BOOM! loud noises to provide the shocks holds it back. While the sets and models look great, the primitive CGI effects really stand out now in their shiny plasticness.

As a haunted house in space flick - right down to lighting and thunder(!) in the exterior shots - Event Horizon could've been an effective psycho-thriller if only the script and direction were more competent. Why did Neill's wife kill herself? Did he cut corners in the design of the gravity drive? Why are some crew member's guilt manifesting as apparitions while others seem to be driven made or totally unaffected? We don't know.

After a scary few moments of the extremely grainy Paramount logo, the Blu-ray transfer is really great to look at with a clean image with lots of depth and detail, all the better to reveal how poor the CGI is. Grain isn't an issue, but they haven't scrubbed it with DNR to leave waxy skin textures. The surround audio isn't as impressive, but that's more by the audio design than technical problems.

On the extras front, I haven't listened to the commentary, but there's an making-of documentary that manages to stuff perhaps 40 minutes of information in a 1:45 package so slow and droning that I watched it over three or four nights, dozing off each time. The biggest takeaway is that the film was probably crippled by a ridiculously shortened post schedule.

Directors are contractually allowed 10 weeks to make their first cut, but Anderson waived it to six weeks and then lost two of those while shooting 2nd unit material. With only four weeks to slam together an FX-laden film and crippled by a poor mix, the first test screening was a disaster. Slashing out hunks of the film, the 2nd screening went better, but they ran out of time, so what we have now is pretty much the 2nd or 3rd cut. Because this slightly pre-dated DVD, apparently no one thought to keep the extra footage, so there are few deleted scenes on the disc and no hope for a proper director's cut. The first Star Trek picture suffered the same short-post/botched mix situation and when it was released on DVD, the fixed that up somewhat.

Score: 6/10. It's cheap enough to buy if you think you'll watch it twice, otherwise Netflix it.


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